or "why it's a good thing I never became a cartoonist"
Junior High School in the early 90s. With a single cartooning class under my belt from the Torpedo Factory Art Gallery, I was obviously inches away from an exclusive New Yorker deal, but somehow my life took a turn towards Music. Though those cartooning days are long gone, these sketches still survive. Remember, everything is funnier when you're in Junior High.
Almost every single cartoon I drew is on the back of a school handout or homework assignment. Pen and Ink was my preferred medium.
"I wonder what he meant by 'One small step for Aagh'?"
Signs We Rarely See
In some classes, pens were not allowed because they could not be erased (and heaven forbid that kids stick with their first answer). Pencil cartoons were a last resort since I was a messy kid and usually ended up smudging everything. I have no idea how the screwdriver in the left cartoon is staying up.
This one actually came out surprisingly well. I spent at least a week diligently working on it in Mr. Wargowski's ninth grade chemistry class, while Mr. Wargowski tried to teach element suffixes to the class by showing that an electron derivative of the imaginary element, Masturbium, would be called Masturbate. This is called "public school" in the education biz.
Rare colour sketches. Remember the Free Willy craze? That was so obnoxious.
Labs were the biggest wastes of time in any scientific field. I always tried to make sure that my responsibility for physics labs ended with the cover page, and would spend the entire period drawing a comic on the front. The left one is from "Using Archimedes' Principle to Determine Density" and the right one is from "The Specific Heat of a Metal".
"Determining the Melting Temperature of a Solid"
disjointed, anticlimactic, and hard to understand, much like the average jazz trumpet solo
♣ Last month went by incredibly quickly -- I don't know why but it really felt like the month was two or three days shorter than normal. Despite this, I was able to remain my usual productive-BU self, as personified by Mike Catania in this guest post from 2004.
♣ Among my accomplishments for the month of February, I wrote two new songs, hosted two poker games, took off five days from work, painted and carpeted one room and a hallway, refloored one foyer, met three new people, went on two dates, beat two video games, finished one project at work, read four books and half a book of short stories, took care of four cats, washed the car once, shoveled the driveway twice, installed one gate in Anna's house to protect her progeny from being eaten by a cat, and saw four movies. Then in week two...
♣ This month's plans mostly involve renovating the living room and kitchen of my house, which means that they'll be in various stages of disarray throughout the month. Currently (thanks to the great help of a retired dad who might as well have a spackle tree growing in his backyard) the walls are shored up, smoothed out, and ready for sanding and a smattering of NOUGAT-coloured paint. By the end of the month, the entire top floor will have new carpet, and the kitchen will have fake hardwood floors (see artist's rendering of what my dining area will look like when it's all done).
♣ Besides the home improvements, I'd also like to start writing my will before my inevitable assassination by NASA for implying that we may have faked the moon landing, and take some online courses through the program at work.
♣ Our company is now using some program called Skillsoft, which is a collection of thousands of online courses to be taken at the leisure of the employee. Performance managers are always getting their panties in a knot over whether employees are forward-motioning their careers or gaining psychic growth, but the training budgets are never actually big enough to send everyone to the highly educational Java seminar in Hawaii.
♣ Personally, I'm a big fan of online courses, because it allows me to work at whatever pace I feel comfortable, without worrying about attendance grades or falling asleep in class. If you were to tally up all the non-A's I'd ever earned in my college career, I bet that 80% would be attendance-related. I got a C- in a speech class at Northern Virginia Community College because I did all the work but skipped three classes, and a B- in some combinatorics math class with no real-world applications that consisted of endless quizzes about how many different ways you could stuff pigeons into pigeonholes.
♣ Had those classes taught me how to stuff pigeons instead, I surely would have attended on a much more frequent basis. Pigeon stuffing is a crucial life skill. Bonus points to anyone who knows where this poem came from without looking it up:
♣ Speaking of poems, there are only two days until the deadline for the "Write My Lyrics" contest, and I've only received two entries! Surely you don't want to miss out on the quintissential American Idol of song lyrics and the fame that goes with it. Submit your lyrics by Sunday! I will probably post the entries for voting on Monday.
♣ Also on Monday, Kathy and Chris return State-side from their jaunt through England which means I'll relinquish custody of the gay kitty brothers, who have been constantly harassing Amber and Booty since last Monday.
♣ Today is Mike Sharp's birthday, and tomorrow is Dave 'Jackpot' Miller's birthday. Happy Birthday! Have a great weekend, everyone!Why buy a satellite when you have a wok?
For visitors not already in the throes of late-stage Alzheimer's or alcohol-induced memory loss, I had a "Write My Lyrics" contest a couple weeks ago . Today you get to read and vote upon everyone's lyrical masterpieces, with the winner receiving a $10 gift certificate to Amazon.com and and a contract to write the lyrics to a new song by the grindcore band, Seven Minutes of Nausea.
|There were five entries:
|| Download or Print the Entries (TXT)|
See the score (GIF)
Listen to the Recording (1.5MB MP3)
Once you have decided upon a winner, vote using the Poll buttons in the left sidebar. Please play fairly and only vote once -- if I sense any funny business I will erase your vote and shoot you (also known as the Harris-Cheney Method of Vote-Management). Voting ends next week, on Sunday, March 11.Swords everywhere
How long is too long for a movie?
"I do agree you can't just make movies three hours long for no apparent reason. For a romantic comedy to be three hours long, that's longer than most marriages," Fincher said.
This story on CNN.com notes the recent trend of movies to stretch towards the dreadful three-hour mark, a trend popularized by the unfortunate "made-for-BBC-miniseries" trilogy, Lord of the Rings. It's a little known fact that the actress who played Gollum was originally a fresh-faced hottie plucked straight from the Disney afternoon lineup (to boost the movie's Hollywood appeal), but the movies took so long to film that she became the gaunt, spirit-crushed eyesore you see in the final cuts.
There is always inner turmoil between my inherited "get your money's worth" gene and my "attention span's so short that they should show multiple movies in tabbed windows" gene, but in this case I side with the attention span gene. Movies today are definitely too long -- two hours is a reasonable and traditional length of time for a movie, and they should only be longer in very rare cases. One needs to look no further than Bad Boys II for an example of this phenomenon: a horrible movie which takes a whopping 144 minutes to explain why Will Smith and Martin Lawrence shoot stuff. In my rewrite of the movie, I managed to cut it down to 14 minutes, after which Smith puts Lawrence out of his whining misery with a bullet to the back of the head.
As a public service, I have created a shortlist of rules to follow when determining how long your next movie should be.
Happy Birthday Jay Morrison!Man hopes grenades don't explode under pressure
Six years ago when I was pretending to learn about composing in Florida, I would open each weekend by visiting a local nature preserve or state park. One of my earliest trips was to Marsh Sands Beach, a small east-facing beach on the Gulf of Mexico that was just fifteen minutes outside of Tallahassee (a straight shot down one of the main roads). Although this beach would ultimately be remembered for the low-tide island I claimed (Briland), watching horseshoe crabs hump, or training Chompy not to be crazy, in the beginning it was just the perfect place to catch the sunrise.
I normally wouldn't give a rat's ass about sunrises, and I'd be one of the last people to scale Mount Gobacktobed just to watch a sunrise at any other time in my life, but there was something very unique about having my own personal ocean sunrise in my backyard, surrounded by all manner of flora and fauna.
More and more often as the months went by, I'd wake up at 5:30 on Sunday morning just to catch another sunrise and walk barefoot on the beach. I remember the time a large bouquet of plastic red roses had (quite poetically) washed ashore , and the time I stumbled across a couple of high schoolers asleep on the beach (apparently having spent the previous night doing some beachbum canoodling).
Of course, there would always be obstacles between me and my sunrise. Since every road between Tallahassee, Sopchoppy, and Doubleyoutieffasaki was barely more than a dirt road, I often got stuck behind local dairyfarts driving fifteen miles per hour in their '80 Dodge Darts, missing the sunrises by mere minutes. Anyone who has ever seen the sun crest the horizon in a kaleidoscope of artistic synonyms knows that it's not quite the same if the sun is already up when you get there. Despite these hurdles, I had plenty of sunrise shots (including the ones you see here) stored away for the memories by the time I left Florida two years later.
On my last sunrise trip in April 2003, I brought Booty along with me in a carrying case. I was getting her accustomed to riding around in the car so she could take her first road trip back to Virginia in a couple weeks' time.
Booty didn't give a rat's ass about the sunrise so we went home.Off-duty Northwest employee charged for release
There are no spoilers in these reviews.
An artsy film about an addict history teacher trying to teach dialectics at his inner city school. Interesting and strong enough to warrant Gosling's Best Actor nomination, but forgettable overall. Rated R, probably for drug use, sexuality and the death of a kitty from old age.
Final Grade: C+
Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap (GBA):
A classic Zelda-game that plays like the kindred spirit of A Link to the Past (SNES). This is as close to an old-fashioned Zelda experience as you can get, and it's still quite playable on the DS. Where the original game used the Light and Dark Worlds as a way to breath a double life into a single game map, Minish Cap employs a chicken that sits on Link's head (and looks like a cap) which will shrink him to tiny sizes. The game is huge, especially for a handheld title, and only rarely gets frustrating.
Final Grade: A-
Stranger than Fiction:
This movie was the second half of a double-feature (the first being Half Nelson) intended to end the evening on a lighter note. Surely everyone's seen the ads -- Will Ferrell is a boring accountant who wakes up one day and discovers that his life is being narrated by a voice in his head, which might lead to his ultimate death. There are no laugh-out-loud Will Ferrell moments, but the entire movie is amusing at the chuckle-level and surprisingly meaningful by the end. This is the type of movie Jim Carrey would have tried to do four years ago and destroyed beyond recognition. Ferrell actually pulls it off with a bit of class and pathos.
Final Grade: A
Yoshi's Island (DS):
This game had so much potential to be great, but completely wasted it. It employs at least two of the "Things I Hate in Video Games" (an entry I'd planned to write last week, but which will probably be pushed off until next week). Yoshi's Island is an old-fashioned 2D platformer with Yoshi as the main character. Yoshi can carry babies on his back, like Mario, Donkey Kong, and the Princess, and each baby gives him a different power, like running fast or floating through the air. He beats enemies by eating them and pooping out an egg, which he can then throw at other enemies.
At this point, the game sounds great, like a flute recital before the first song. It's only when you start playing the game that you realize just how frustrating it is. The control scheme works just fine, but you don't immediately die when you get hit by an enemy. Instead, the baby falls off your back into a floating bubble, bouncing around the screen on a random path and crying incessantly. By the time you get the baby back, it's probably floating over an enemy, which means you'll just lose the baby again immediately and have to repeat the process. While the baby is floating, your stash of collectible stars drains away, and when it hits 0, the baby gets kidnapped in an uninterruptible cutscene and you have to start over. Meanwhile, your collectible stars are also necessary to meet some of the goals in each level, so some might argue that dropping your baby in the game has even worse consequences than real life -- you'll have to restart the level! Only get this if you're a masochist -- you will want to throw your DS at your cat at least once per level.
Final Grade: C
Similar movies always seem to come out in groups (see also, Armageddon and Deep Impact, or Requiem for a Dream and Bambi). This is the sister movie to The Illusionist -- both movies are about turn-of-the-century magicians. The Illusionist was a love story with Ed Norton as the magician who proved that sleight-of-hand wasn't just a term to insult Middle Eastern thieves. The Prestige tells the tale of two rival stage magicians and their back-and-forth attempts to sabotage and outdo the other's act. This movie was very engrossing to watch, and I did enjoy it, but after it was over I still preferred the other movie. The payoff of the last third of this movie is neat, but seems to be only tangentially related to the thrust of the main theme. Still, it's worth a rental.
Final Grade: BHalf-ton man leaves the house
broadcasting coded messages about aliens since 2005
♣ Congratulations to Philip and Kara on the birth of their first daughter! Sadly they did not name the baby "Malibu" -- Madison Grace Barbie was born on Sunday, March 4, weighing 5 lbs 15 ozs. Mother and child are doing fine.
♣ The next baby on the baby-assembly-line will most likely belong to Anna and Ben. Since their due date is March 27, I am now taking bets on the actual date of birth. The person who guesses the closest to the actual date will be allowed to name their baby. I have not yet cleared this contest's prize with the parents-to-be, but I'm sure they won't mind. My vote is for March 28, and since I have supernatural powers that can sense when babies are ripe, you all have probably already lost.
♣ I've been disappointed with this season of LOST, though Wednesday's episode was a tiny step in the right direction. Other than Desmond's episode with the jewelry store owner, the episodes have figuratively (in one case, literally) been driving in circles. When you think about it, the pace of these episodes is very close to the great Season One, where not much happened each week. The only difference is that everyone's been waiting for two years for answers, and the original storytelling formula is no longer good enough.
♣ It would be nice if shows were only as long as they needed to be to tell their stories. The 4400 is a great example of this -- each season is twelve episodes long and continues to push the story forward. I would definitely watch and enjoy 18, featuring Jack Bauer in action without all the driving around the city.
♣ Anna and I are over halfway through the fifth season of 24, which (so far) is easily the best season of the first five. The new soundtrack is much better than the throwaway melodramatic orchestral gestures used in the previous seasons, and there have been no annoyingly worthless characters getting amnesia (though there is a slight misstep with one of the guest appearances for about three episodes). If there were a spinoff show starring Kim Bauer being chased by cougars and becoming a hostage in a liquor store, I would totally watch it, as long as every hour ended with her dying in some fashion, Kenny-style.
♣ We were noticing the other night that 24 really has a problem with casting their female roles. They relegate all the good actresses and eye-candy to secondary or temporary roles, like Kate Mara as Shari Rothenberg, the hottest (psycho) chem major ever to work in CTU's basement (who incidentally looks strikingly like a girl I had a huge crush on in junior high). If they would cast the Shari's of the show as Jack's love interests or family, maybe we would actually feel some sympathy for Jack when he gets so emotional about saving his loved ones. Instead we get Kim Bauer and Kate Warner, horrid actresses and funny-looking human beings. I'd sooner watch Jack Bauer shout, "Damnit, there's no time for that!" for an entire hour than see him tear up over his useless excuse for a daughter.
♣ This weekend, my plans include dinner with the owners of the gay honking kitties, helping an old friend move back to Alexandria from Texas, hosting poker, prepping the living room for painting, and hanging a new light in the foyer to replace the 1970s Space Bubble that's currently there. I'll also be tabulating the results of the Lyrics contest (vote by Sunday!), removing the double votes that Shac added for the song about himself (as if I have more than one visitor from Israel), and preparing for the next 12 of 12 (on Monday!). There will also be a brand new NAME THAT TUNE contest next Wednesday, but with a twist!
♣ Today is also Mark Connor and Larry Newdorf's birthday. Happy Birthday! Have a great weekend everyone!How to profit with girl scout cookies
"Write My Lyrics" Contest Results
Congratulations to Chris "Doobie" Fraker, for winning the popular vote and a $10 gift certificate to Amazon.com! Chris' song, Shac's Lamentable tells the tale of another VT alumnus who randomly decided to up and move to Israel for no apparent reason. The song received 5 votes and beat entries by Kathy Smith and Carol Uri (as well as two more entries hastily scribbled down by me to make the contest look bigger than it really was, since I have lots of expertise in looking big).
As a lyricist, Chris gained insight into his subject matter through shared years in the Blue Ribbon Brass quintet . When asked whether any other quintet members, such as the first trumpet player, had any influence on him, Chris demurred (30 KB MP3).
|| Download or Print the Entries (TXT)|
See the score (GIF)
Listen to the Recording (3MB MP3)
Now that the contest is over, the next Audience Participation event will be this Wednesday: a NAME THAT TUNE contest in which you will only be given the bass line! In the meantime, don't forget that today is 12 of 12!Hole in pajamas reveals Internet plagiarism
4:13 5:13 AM: The New and Improved Daylight Savings Time can eat me. I'm going back to bed.
5:57 AM: After sleeping for an extra fifteen minutes, there's no time for the monthly "Draw a Hat on the Mirror" photo shoot. There's always time for the brushing of the teeth (or "tooting the kazoo" as they say in some rural areas when your toothbrush is as big as mine).
6:04 AM: An artsy-fartsy shot, symbolic of the fact that where I'm going is much the same as where I've been (except that there are no annoying high beams where I'm going).
6:21 AM: You can tell that the corporate computers are high-tech because we have to spring ahead manually.
6:34 AM: Another artsy shot, taken in the fifth floor kitchen, which is symbolic of the fact that I'm going to have some hot chocolate.
7:28 AM: Sunrise comes so late now that it's not even sporting to try and catch a picture of it.
12:25 PM: Having a sandwich for lunch and reading the Post.
1:12 PM: I took a half day today so I could get some painting done in the afternoon. Most of the house is in a state of disarray at the moment.
BONUS: The bonus picture this month was supposed to be "Green", but these bars are actually PUFFIN BAY GREY. It's not easy being green... colourblind. Maybe the new light fixture will make you green with envy.
4:39 PM: The painting venture was a success, and now my walls and both cats are a pleasing NOUGAT flavour.
6:36 PM: Off to Falls Church for Spaghetti Night and some miscellaneous gallivanting.
7:49 PM: Having my patented spaghetti with secret Komodo Dragon sauce for dinner.
11:08 PM: Booty keeps me company while I upload my photos. The beds were temporarily stacked here so the other rooms could be painted. There may or may not be a pea at the bottom.Crikey, it looks just like him.
For those of you keeping score, I've had two other Name That Tune contests in the past. The first only had incredibly brief snippets from rock music, but people did surprisingly well anyhow. The second contest was themed, and had participants chasing down sitcoms from the 1980s. (We are not including the two mini Name That Tune contests from 2005 because, frankly, they sucked worse than a solar-powered Dustbuster).
Today's contest involves popular and rock music from the past forty years, but the twist is that you only get to hear the bass lines. Here are the full rules:
| Song #1|
| Song #6|
Update Hint for the 90s: All three of the 90s tunes were in the Top 40 in the US, reaching #2, #10, and #27 respectively.
In the past, I've been a horrible judge of how easy or difficult my contests are, so I'll just say that I think there are 2 "gimmes" and maybe 2 impossible songs. Good luck!
Happy Birthday Annette!"I'm just mad that I lost to a woman I think I'm way better than."
My memory is very strangely configured, much like every room on Trading Spaces after those crazy designers get through with their green denim wallpaper. My short-term memory is pretty weak unless I write things down, which is usually why it takes so long for me to finally remember to run important errands. As mentioned in bullet #42 of my 222 Things About Me , I have a keyed long-term memory: Very few of my memories are easily-accessed and near the surface -- it takes a triggering event for me to remember the details of that event, but then the floodgates open and I remember everything about it, even the embarassing things that other people would prefer be forgotten.
For example, I still have the entire songbook from five years of the Marching Virginians etched in my brain. As soon as I hear a bit of a song off one of the numerous crappy CDs we released, the muscle memory comes rushing back and I can pantomime the entire first trumpet part from memory. Don't believe me? The melody from Caribe starts like this: 2 - 2 - 12 - 0 - 2 - 0 - 0 - 2 - 2 - 0 - 0 - 1 - 2 - 12 - 1 - 1 - 12 - 2 - 12 - 23 - 2 - 1 - 12 - 2.
Although it's nice to know that my brain is a figurative oil well of undiscovered anecdotes and previously epiphanized epiphanies, I do occasionally run into issues when I try to be newly creative. I have no doubt that some news updates from the past year are repeats of early years since I remember very little of what I wrote so long ago. More telling is when I compose a new idea that ends up being something already written. In 2003, I wrote about the melody that I eventually discovered was eerily similar to a video game theme from many years earlier. This same scenario just repeated with the "Write My Lyrics" contest, specifically the end of the chorus.
Last week, while sorting my complete discography of Milli Vanilli / Bob Dylan duets, I came across one of several Kansas CDs which I hadn't really listened to since I left Florida. A very brief transition in one of the songs, The Wall very closely resembles part of my original melody, right down to the chord progression (I actually prefer theirs, and wish I'd thought of it first).Hear my plagiarism (284 KB MP3)
This unconscious adaptation makes me wonder just how much inspiration relies on other sources, and how much actually comes from a unique fount of musical ideas!Basketball coach has her priorities in order
packaging the detritus of my wisdom into easy-to-digest bundles
♣ I've managed to get a little painting in every day this week except for one, and paint fumes have now reached a critical level, causing me to feel high like a monkey dangling from a very tall tree.
♣ Though this analogy isn't particular good, it does allow me to reuse this picture of me one final time before I relegate it to the trash. Reuse means I get to expend less effort, which transitively means that I have more energy in reserve, for the day I'm pursued down a long narrow alley by an escaped lion. No one ever expects an escaped lion, and then CHOMP(y), they're breakfast. Doesn't it look like I'm hanging from a tree wondering if that lion is going to make me into breakfast?
♣ When I was constantly working from home at the end of last year (during Super Crunch Time, which isn't just a cereal from the 80s), I got in the habit of eating breakfast every day. Since then, it's been hard for me to revert back to my normal two-meals-a-day routine. Recently, I've been having a light snack at 10:30 and another around 2:00 in the afternoon, followed by dinner at 6. As a result, I have gained three pounds, and now almost exceed the weight of a British "stone". So long, coxswain days.
♣ Sometimes when I look back at my crew days, I realize that for every one great day where I truly enjoyed it, there were fourteen other crappy days where I just wanted to quit. I'm occasionally surprised that I actually did five full years of it. Then again, I probably got more out of it than those five years of undergrad.
♣ A deep thought I read recently, in relation to applying for a job: Having a degree only shows you can stick with something to the end, and certifications show off your memorization skills. Job experience is the only real measure of how capable you are, and even then it's not infallible.
♣ It's a good thing that none of you has a job as a bass-line guesser. Apparently Wednesday's Name That Tune contest is much, much harder than I expected it to be. I figured the winning entry would have 6 to 7 correct answers, but the high score of the moment seems to be around 5. I will not give out any more hints, but I may decide to increase the size of the prize to spur competition. Maybe some of the musical cripples can band together and form a corporation for the duration of the contest.
♣ It has just come to my attention that "musical cripple" is no longer politically correct. "Musicologist" or "Undergraduate Music Education Major" are both more acceptable.
♣ My weekend is pretty booked up at the moment -- I have Movie Night plans tonight, St. Patrick's Day plans tomorrow, stairway recarpeting plans on Sunday, and then I'm taking Monday off to recarpet the living room. It looks like I'm on track to finish the kitchen and living room by the end of the month, and then April will be "Do the Bathrooms" Month (not "Doo the Bathrooms" Month, because that's every day). After that I'll be done doing manly house stuff for a few months, though I will probably reconvene in October to turn the basement into a cosmic bowling alley.
♣ Have a great weekend! Happy Birthday Andy Norton on Sunday!Poor people have more leisure time
Friday night was Movie Night, and the entirety of Sterling was in the local Blockbuster, stocking up on movies before the imminent 3 - 8 inches of snow. We had authentic Irish cuisine from a little pub known as McDonald's (son of Donald in Gaelic) and watched American Dreamz, a parody of both American Idol and George W. Bush which tells the tale of a suicide bomber who gets on the show in hopes of assassinating the President who will be a guest judge in the final round. The movie was entertaining enough, if only to see "The Impossible Dream" from Man of La Mancha choreographed to a bunch of 80s dance movies.
By Saturday morning, there had been less than an inch of snow accumulation so I went shopping in preparation for a St. Patrick's Day feast. My normal mashed potato supplier was not available, so I had to make due with a local ghetto variety which came in little milk cartons with hand-edited cooking instructions. It looked as if someone had applied white-out to the back of every single box.
Dinner consisted of six pounds of corned beef, four pounds of cabbage, seven cups of sour cream and ghetto mashed potatoes, a bottomless fount of Guinness, and sugar cookies. Post dinner talk centered around Kathy and Anna bemoaning the difficulty of the Name That Tune contest (which has a deadline of tomorrow at noon, so get your entries in!).
After dinner we played a rousing game of Balderdash, where it was discovered that a zopilot is a three-legged mammal that can both swim and fly (shown in its natural habitat below). Also, it is illegal for a cow to be in a hamburger in the state of California.
Sunday was "Recarpet the Stairs" Day, and efforts went quite smoothly and quickly. In the evening, Anna and I finished watching the fifth season of 24, which was definitely the best of the first five. Now she's allowed to have her baby, since it will no longer interrupt our TV-viewing schedule.
Today, I've taken off work to finish the carpeting job -- the living room gets its turn and will hopefully be as easy as the stairs were. I also seem to have caught a slight cold and an earache/blocked-ear sometime in the night, neither of which is conducive to enjoying the day. Don't you hate when one ear feels so pressurized that it might explode, but you can't equalize the pressure through the usual nose-plugging remedies?
In other news, I expect a visit from the Secret Service any minute now, since I managed to use multiple terrorist buzzwords in a single post!Everyone does CPR wrong
I haven't uploaded new pictures since the beginning of 2007. This is a horrible state of affairs and not just for all of my illiterate visitors (a recent pictograph survey found that 28% of daily visitors are illiterate and only come for the pictures of hot chicks). I have several gems in my collection that deserve uploading, like the time Kelley drank 12 Pabst Blue Ribbons and passed out on the toilet during the Super Bowl. To rectify the situation, and hopefully provide some positive connotations to a word that would otherwise sound too much like "rectum", I have gone through three months of photo backlog for today's news update. Enjoy the pictures and turn in your Name That Tune entries by noon today!
The evolution of my living room:
The only piece left to do in this room is the curtains. If you are of the female persuasion or a male house-husband living in New York City, what colours should I make the curtains in this room?
A neat tree picture from one of February's ice storms.
If you wash a quilt for the first time in three years, and your lint trap is 100% empty when you start, you may end up creating a brand new life form after a single dryer run. I would like to add that I wouldn't have had to wash this quilt if Kathy's cat, Lake, hadn't decided to honk on my arm while I slept on the couch.
If you are about to engage in a dust-creating home improvement project and you need someplace to temporarily store the thingy that keeps your messy spoons off the stovetop, don't store it in the oven, even if you think "no one will be using the oven between now and tomorrow" because someone will use the oven and then you'll end up with a melted piece of plastic that will do naught for messy spoons. However, you can probably add a beak and three legs to make a zopilot.
Someone doesn't want to share a bed.
So far, Amber knows Roll Over, Play Dead, and Fetch the Paper.
I added several more pictures than the ones you see above to the Photos archive. See more new pictures from this year here. If you only care about kitties, go here .Sissy parent sues over grade that hurt 4.5 average
Congratulations to Kathy Biddick Smith for correctly guessing six of the ten bass lines in last week's Name That Tune contest! Runner-up was Anna with four -- each of them will receive a gift certificate to Amazon.com for $10 and $5, respectively.
The table below contains the original bass lines as well as a sample of the actual song. Highlight the super secret invisible column to read the correct answers.
|#||Bass Line||Recording||Answer||Who got it?|
|1||Blacked-Eyed Peas - Let's Get Retarded (Let's Get It Started)||Kathy, Anna, K&S|
|2||AC / DC - You Shook Me All Night Long||Kathy, Anna|
|3||B-52s - Love Shack||Kathy|
|4||Beach Boys - Wouldn't It Be Nice||Nobody|
|5||No Doubt - It's My Life||Nobody|
|6||Blood, Sweat, and Tears - Spinning Wheel||Kathy|
|7||The Cardigans - Lovefool||Kathy|
|8||Aerosmith - Pink||Nobody|
|9||The Bangles - Walk Like an Egyptian||Kathy, Anna|
|10||Michael Jackson - Billie Jean||Anna, K&S, Rebecca|
I believed that #1 and #2 were gimmes, and that #3, #4, and #7 were the least likely to be discovered. Apparently there was conspiracy and intrigue surrounding #5, as my researched information put it five years earlier than it was actually released. This would have pushed it into this decade rather than the 90s. Because of this blatant skewing of the contest, I'm giving everyone who entered the contest one extra point. Thanks for playing!
So what should my next Audience Participation Contest entail?Stinky shoes for a $2500 prize
1) Ice: I'm almost 100% certain that ice originated with a pothead Mario programmer who accidentally typed 0 instead of 1 and became hypnotized by the way Mario seemed to effortless glide across the ground like a greased-up piggy on a Slip N' Slide. Short on both time and brownies, he decided to change the colour of the ground from brown to white, call the level "ICE WORLD" and head home. Ice in video games serves no other purpose than to make the controls more frustrating, and to cause permanent thumb injuries as you try to overcorrect your momentum by compressing the keypad in the other direction with a force equivalent to the jaw strength of a crocodile.
Despite these complaints, ice continues to appear in games today, having become one of the standard adjectives (and nouns-turned-adjectives) that game developers can use to typecast their worlds or dungeons (the others being water, fire, big, tiny, desert, forest, light, and dark, though to its credit, Super Mario World tried to add Donut and Chocolate until they were sued by NAPO and NAACP in separate lawsuits). There's even an entire subsection of the latest Zelda game which involves pushing around giant menhirs on icy floors without falling into holes. I would tend to classify this as "not pimping."
2) Unskippable Cutscenes: I realize that since the introduction of the No Child Left Behind act, we're all supposed to pretend to help people read better, but it's a safe bet to say that making the dialogue in your video game move slower will not help anyone out. The worst is when a game puts... one... word... on... the screen at a time, as if that instills them with more drama. In one video game that over-used the "Japanese ellipsis", I actually saw a dialogue bubble where each dot of the ellipsis went up on the screen separately, as if the character had nothing to say, but couldn't quite express this all at once because it was too arduous a task.
At a higher level, every single non-interactive scene in a game should be skippable, because sometimes you really just don't care about the story -- especially the fifth time through Ocarina of Time, or the first time through Trauma Center: The Emo Soap Opera With Extra Cutting. And while we're at it, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance does not need to have fourteen separate company splash screens at the beginning of the game. No one cares who rendered your 3D googaboogas.
3) Unlocking Features: It's one thing to get access to a super secret level after beating the game, or a new character to play when you clear the Super Chocolate Loop-De-Loop level in under thirty seconds. Recently though, more and more games come with just one or two levels initially open, and require you to unlock pretty much everything in the game through a series of made-up challenges designed to make the game longer than necessary. I'm of the opinion that the fifty bucks I dropped on the counter should entitle me to play all fifty bucks worth of the game because I am a dirty capitalist. And should the memory card for Super Smash Brothers Melee every get corrupted, I would just never play it again rather than try to earn all those ridiculous trophies all over again.
4) Collecting Things: I blame the Mario franchise for this one: "Collect five dragon coins and earn an extra life!" Simple, easy to remember, and (most importantly) OPTIONAL. Fast-forward five years to find that every single Mario game now has two total levels which you have to play through forty-two different times to collect a cornucopia of crap that even a bum looking for redeemable recyclables would skip over. By the end, you've collected so many gold stars, yellow coins, red coins, and blue coins, that you might as well rebrand the game as Super Lucky Charms.
Zelda takes this to a brand new level of infamy with the introduction of the Golden Skulltula (translated roughly as pixelated poop) -- one hundred spiders that could be hidden anywhere on the map that you pretty much have to discover to get better equipment in the game. Of course, if you buy the special Rumble Pak add-on for a mere $40, your joystick (the one attached to the game, not you) will vibrate whenever you're near one! I always wanted my personal joystick to be an arachnid divining rod.
5) Bad Translations: Nothing kills a video game story like a bad translation. Though it's gotten much better in the years since America conquered Japan and outlawed non-English languages, there are still plenty of games out there that were obviously translated literally from their foreign origins by someone who wasn't fluent in either language, but learned colloquialisms from Hong Kong overdubs. The early Final Fantasy games could have been products of running the dialogue through the Alta Vista Babelfish multiple times, using French as an intermediary language between the Japanese and English. Here is a sample of Babelfishing, from my yet-to-be-released video game, Booty Bay:
Before Translation: Chompy frowned. He certainly did not want to be accused of being all up in her grill, but time was slipping away. "Let's roll," he said.
Translating to French, then Greek, then back to French, then English: Chompy steamed the eyebrows. Of course he did not want that it is marked that is its same in the grill, but ascending time slipped moved away. "let us roll, it said.
Happy Birthday Aaron Ulm and Jen Graves!Top 7 PR Disasters in Gaming History
this is your brain in drag
♣ The earache I had on Monday finally stopped hurting by Wednesday and now I'm just deaf in one ear like I was during the Great Christmas Earache of 2004. Earaches are the only thing that can make my ears bleed outside of a Contemporary Music Festival, and this one did manage to lay me low for a couple of days.
♣ Bleeding ears are not normally fodder for discussion here, but I'm trying a new shock-value thing to up my ratings -- it worked for Fear Factor!
♣ Between all the suffering and painting and flooring and wenching, I've picked out a new project to occupy my time in the coming months: I will become a contributor to the newly-formed Wiki for my favourite series of all time. The War of Light and Shadow series is one point of the triumvirate of multi-medias I tend to push on unsuspecting friends (the other two points of the triangle being Memento, and Alias), and I even wrote an Amazon review a couple years ago that became a Spotlight Review.
♣ I'm sure the fact that all of you visit my site on this interweb thing means you've heard of Wikipedia, at least in passing. The Wiki idea is also used frequently to create more specific encyclopedias (there's even one for all things 24), and since the unfinished WoLaS series is already epic in scope (probably over six thousand pages already), I think a massive glossary would be very helpful to other readers.
♣ I once wrote a post about my desires to write a definitive source on the web, but I can't remember when it was and I can no longer find it in the archive. Because the evidence is gone, the next fragment contains BRAND NEW INFORMATION.
♣ I've always wanted to create one of those sites on the web containing everything you ever wanted to know about (past ideas to sit on my underline were Alias, Finale tricks, Frequently Asked Questions by Kathy and Mike about Finale, Finale workarounds, music theory, the Java MIDI packages, and dressing your cat). The two obstacles that were always in my way: 1) Usually after I enthusiastically create the initial baseline for something, I get bored and move onto another project. 2) Almost every topic that I might be an "expert" on is a topic where a million other people are at least twice as expert-y as I am so I'd feel like a big poser. However, I'm sure that no one within two degrees of separation from me is as fanatical about this book series as I am, so it should be a good fit! Plus, as you can see from the daily Pulitzer material I write, I do have a way with words.
♣ A couple nights ago, I had a dream that was obviously sponsored by the word, "concinnity". People in the dream kept using it in conversation, it was written on walls, and randomly popped up out of context. The word was so etched in my brain that when I woke up I immediately wrote it down to see if it was a mystic sign that might lead me to buried treasure. It turns out that "concinnity" is an actual word, and means harmony in the arrangement or interarrangement of parts with respect to a whole. I have yet to figure out how this word will change my life, but if I find any riches or doubloons, you all ain't gettin' any.
♣ My weekend plans are pretty light compared to the rest of the month of March. I'll probably just paint the kitchen, work on my will, and dive into my new pet project, as previously mentioned. There are no birthdays this weekend -- in fact there are none on my calendar until April -- so all you preggos better start popping some babies out!
♣ Have a great weekend!Increasing constraints increases creativity
It's always seemed to me that the education system should gradually increase in difficulty and effort as you progress (see also, any arcade game from the 80s). In American society, the scale seems skewed, with high school entailing high stress and a mad rush to prepare for college, and college being a collosal waste of time (this imbalanced buildup and letdown is also reflected in the Matrix trilogy). I can't remember either phase of life being particularly hard, but I do remember that my schedule in high school was far more packed than it ever was in a year since.
For example, put on your baggy time-jumping pants and jump back with me twelve years to March 26, 1995. I was a junior in high school with big glasses and even bigger dreams1. Despite my social malfeasance, my calendar was regularly booked 100%. In 1995, the 26th was a Sunday, and I opened the day by spending four hours working on Jack Wilmer's Eagle Project. I can't remember what his project was anymore, but it probably had to do with kidnapping children and stealing their fingerprints, or diverting the flow of an arbitrary creek to increase erosion near new subdivisions.
Following the Eagle Project, I went home for lunch around 1, then turned right around and went to the Boathouse on the far side of the city for a Crew Open House. Our cadre of nine took one of the new shells out on the water to do some stunts for the visiting parents (common stuff like "glide on the water" and "dive to one thousand fathoms"). From Crew, I went back home (we lived in a pretty inconvenient place for a Crew family) and biked the four miles to the high school to play Ultimate Frisbee with the Frisbee Club. I did a lot of biking back then, because Virginia does not allow fifteen-year-old midgets to get anywhere near a steering wheel. Once frisbee was over, I biked back home and had dinner with the parents, playing the role of sullen teenager who hates being the center of attention ever since his sister left for college. After dinner I went up the street to take care of the neighbour's chihuahua, Rusty, worked on my vocabulary worksheet for Chapter 20 of American Civilization (only retard teachers assign vocabulary in a history class) and finally wrote all of this up in my secret diary around 9 PM.
Now take off your pants and put on your time-warp helmet as we fast forward four years into college.
March 26, 1999 was a Friday in my third year of college. The glasses and Members Only jacket had given way to contacts and a pompadour, and I was living with Nathan Egge in East AJ. At this point, I was taking 19 credits of classes: Operating Systems (slept through it, got an A), Applied Combinatorics (this wasn't the woodpeckers-in-pigeonholes class, but it was equally as insipid and sleepworthy, got a B), Contemporary Music Literature (sat in a room listening to Jon Polifrone talk about how much he liked Rolling Rock, got a B), Symphony Band (3 hours a week of sitting around waiting for the oboes to learn their part, got an A), Jazz Arranging (never had class because Chip McNeill was always out of town, got an A-), trumpet and composition lessons (got As), and Probability and Statistics for Electrical Engineers (this class was so nondescript that I didn't even remember taking it, A-). Besides this harrowing courseload, I went home every other weekend to harass hometown honies -- extended trips that usually started on Thursdays and ended on Mondays.
According to my secret diary (which will soon be published as A Million Little Asians by the same company that published James Frey's book), the only thing I did on the 26th was to play Starcraft all day long with Philip Barbie. And not even the challenging variety -- we would just make maps with ever-increasing amounts of super-hard computers and see how long it took us to win cooperatively.
How did your schedule evolve as you grew up?
1: This will be the ad copy when Disney makes a feel good movie about my high school days.These U.S. Raids In Iraq Look Real, But They Aren't (burma shave)
School prohibits use of Myspace site
...students were informed recently that under a new school policy, Think First, Stay Safe, the use of MySpace.com will be prohibited at school and at home. The policy states that students enrolled in the school can't have a MySpace.com account or any similar type of personal site...
I support this ruling wholeheartedly, but not for the reasons you might expect. It's not because of the fear of cyberbullying, or the dangers children face from online predators like sexual molesters and tech-savvy velociraptors -- simply put, Myspace is one of the most poorly designed sites on the Internet, and to subject kids to it at young ages means that they will propogate the practices of crappy web page design into their adult life.
If we were to compare Myspace to an animal which we could later anthropomorphize in a hit documentary narrated by Morgan Freeman and Al Gore, it would probably be a cross between a rather colourful toucan, a male praying mantis who just lost his head during fun-female-mantis-time, and the feces of a three hundred pound gorilla who's trying to learn sign language but occasionally mistakes the sign for "banana" with the sign for "incest". It's definitely noticeable, just not in a good way. Long after the gentle aesthetics and pleasing curves of the URI! Zone have vanished into the legends of the Internet Archive, future generations will be creating personal web pages with black text on a midnight background, a Nickelback "hit" queuing up to automatically play in the background, and a navigation scheme based upon vague links, technical errors, and twenty percent luck.
The intent of Myspace, to link up people with common interests or backgrounds while making millions of dollars, is actually quite noble (move over Mother Theresa), but its execution is the Tequiza of the web -- mix fermented Fruit Loops with pee in a bottle and then shake it out on all your friends. I once made an account so I could look at all the pictures of my hot friends, but my account was flagged almost immediately by the Myspace Police who didn't believe that someone 123 years old would really be visiting the site.
Ever since I reduced my age to the more believable 69 (in honor of Doobie), I've received no further email from admins, but I do regularly get "Friend requests" from spammers and people I don't even know. Poor Kristal (who's obviously an automated bot for some worthless website that has to resort to lonely Myspacers for advertising) thinks I'm 69 and cute (see evidence to the left) -- it's too bad that my profile picture is the one of Booty climbing up the screen in Tallahassee. Apparently when my face looks like a cat plastered across a window, I'm quite the hit with the ladies -- too bad this cat's taken!
Then again, maybe I'm just not in Myspace's target demographic. There was a story in the Post yesterday about Myspace's latest "celebrity for doing nothing", Tila Tequila. I have never heard of this celebrity in my life, even though she bills herself as the "new Madonna". For research purposes, I visited her Myspace page to listen to her single, "I Love U", which already loses two karma points for abbreviating "you". After recovering from the temporary blindness caused by her pustule of a front page, I hit Play and my ear infection returned in full force, as an immune system response to the garbage I was hearing. I would tend to agree with the guy in the article who says, "Her problem is that she's just not that good. As a test case, I'm not sure she's going to measure up because I don't think she has the skill."
There is no doubt in my mind that I, too, could generate mad ad revenue on this site if I were to take off most of my clothes and dance around for your amusement! Want to bet?Mr. Best agreed to remove the "dickheads and wankers rule" slogan but challenged the commissioner's decision on "we're screwed".
What with the pool table, home theatre, and private champagne room, my house has always been a prime location for playing the part of the host. However, this "I'd rather stay home and invite everyone else over" behaviour isn't new -- I was hosting extravagant parties as far back as junior high school.
It started simple, with the obligatory birthday party, but soon expanded into a June "End of the Year Party!", a December "Other End of the Year Party!", and a random holiday-themed party thrown in for good measure. By the time I left for college, there had been at least twenty-five parties hosted in the home of my worn parents (my dad would occasionally retaliate with tricks like taking everyone's shoes, tying them up in a garbage bag, and throwing it on the roof).
True to BU-form (characterized by an obsession for planning, and too much free time), every party was tightly orchestrated down to the tiniest detail, so it would appear flawlessly facile when it came time to execute. The guests were first informed a few weeks in advance with a multipage invitation typeset with only the highest of Print Shop Pro skills on the dot matrix printer (invitations to friends in Arlington and Fake Alexandria had theirs mailed a day early so everyone would get it on the same day!)
Each party had its own impossibly long acronym, like the FAEOTYP (Fifteenth Annual End of the Year Party!), and of course the word Party! always had an exclamation point on it. The invitations were chock full of inside jokes and fun facts stolen directly from Uncle John's Bathroom Reader, and the first invite would always have a choice of three different dates (so I could pick the one the most people were available for). After a round of phone call surveys to select a date (generally just a lame excuse to call the High School Crush of the Moment), a second lavish invitation would go out a week before the big day.
The first thing guests would encounter at the front door was a complex set of knocking instructions, filled with silly jokes and topical gossip from the schoolyard (a surprisingly large number of guests would actually read the entire thing). Neophyte guests who didn't understand the system sometimes went to the side door, where my dad would tell them "The party's next week!" and slam the door.
Once everyone had arrived, it was tradition to kick things off with a Trezur Hunt. Guests were divided into teams, given a map made with DeluxePaint, and a first clue which (when decoded) would lead them to the next location in the house (below is an actual clue from a 1996 Trezur Hunt). The first team to get through all ten clues got the prize, which was usually a giant box of Twix bars or something equally as fun. The Trezur Hunt was always a great success, except for the year where I had one team end up with a padlocked duffle bag while the other team had the key (a sociological experiment as it were). It turns out that a padlock is no barrier, because you can still open the zipper by pulling width-wise on the loose fabric, and I had to quell a mini-riot from the team with the key.
After the Trezur Hunt, we'd play badminton, volleyball, or have a water balloon fight while waiting for the Pizza Hut Pan Pizzas to arrive (This was a carefree age when no one cared that they were consuming five pounds of grease for every one pound of pizza). From here, all the girls would end up watching a movie and all the guys would end up in front of the computer to see whatever latest and greatest new game I had.
Once it was sufficiently dark out, the party would move outside -- the perfect excuse to terrorize the neighbourhood playing Bloody Murder, or to trespass on the last remaining Castle Playground in the city (located conveniently up the block at the elementary school). Despite the hoodlumry, all of my parties were entirely PG -- not because of the strict eye of the party chaperones (they were the least meddlesome party parents ever), but simply because it was a more innocent time when people weren't as concerned with smoking, drinking, and sexing up wenches, as long as they were all having a good time doing something.
In fact, the only party we ever played Spin the Bottle at was in the basement of the strictest parents in town, where we had to keep the door cracked at all times, and one or the other would come downstairs every five minutes looking for the pot. We used a mirror and a lookout system expertly devised by yours truly, but that is a story for another day.
What were your parties like growing up?Dog performes Heimlich maneuver
it's that time of the month again (the end of it)
♣ Work has continued on the home improvement front this week as I tore up two layers of linoleum flooring dating back to 1978 in the kitchen. This is a dangerous job for the anemic, since the sharp edges have given my hands more nooks and crannies than a fork-split English muffin. With the help of URI! Zone readers, like Diana, who can see more than two and a half colours, I also picked out some gold-yellow curtains for the living room, which really accentuate the Asian geopolitical undertones of my house.
♣ Once the kitchen floor is redone, I'll need to find a new place to stash Anna's piano, which is about to celebrate its third year anniversary in my house from a lack of people willing to move it. Pretty soon its 401k will be 100% vested. I also need to paint the trim in the kitchen, though the Nougat-branding of the walls is complete all over the upstairs now.
♣ At work this past week, they painted the stairwells with a thick, shiny coat of industrial grey paint. The air is such a swirling miasma from the lack of ventilation that my twice-daily trip up and down the five flights from the office is now a cost-effective way to attain a temporary state of euphoria.
♣ Speaking of swirling miasmas, I've been playing the new Sam and Max games, the episodic sequels to the funniest computer game ever made (Sam and Max Hit the Road, 1993) and enjoying them enough to laugh out loud on occasion. The game (and original comic) features a dog and bunny detective team fighting crime and spouting non sequitors. Telltale games is releasing a new "episode" every few months for $9 (or you can get all six for $35) and they're definitely worth the price if you like absurdist humour.
♣ Speaking of ticking, I can't stop watching Harry Potter and the Mysterious Ticking Sound on YouTube. It's a nonsensical clip in the vein of the classic Bulbous Bouffant skit which I've referenced many times in the past (3MB MP3), and it's made twice as amusing through its use of puppets. The puppets are key, especially Naked Time Dumbledore.
♣ My weekend will be slightly, but not very, active. On a Lucky Charms busy scale from star to clover (where star is the laziest and clover is the busiest), I'd say it's a moon. On Saturday night, I have plans to go to the Old Dominion Brewery with Rebecca and some of her friends -- a place I've never actually been to, despite living within three miles of it for the past three years. I did pick up Chris and Kathy from a Beer Festival there once when Kathy was HAMMERED. On a hammer scale from ball-peen to claw, she was probably a sledge.
♣ On Sunday morning at 10 AM sharp, my dad and I are installing the laminate flooring in the kitchen / dining room. Sunday is also Cheryl Sherling's birthday, and April Fools Day. I haven't done much for April Fools Day in recent history though -- four years ago, I changed every single word on my page to "bork" and automatically loaded a repeating MP3 of the Swedish chef and then gave my sightsinging students a ridiculously difficult dictation example to scare them all into wetting themselves.
♣ Have a great weekend!Students abstain from Facebook for Lent
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